by Ian Wright
While the Toyota Land Cruiser isn't always the first vehicle that comes to mind when we talk about iconic off-roaders, it is one of the most far-reaching. It's valued in some of the most far-flung parts of the world, from the Australian outback to the most dangerous areas of Africa, for its incredible durability mixed with a now-legendary level of off-road prowess. Whether it's adventurers, aid workers, or farmers, the Land Cruiser has been serving people since 1951. However, there has been criticism of the current generation for becoming more complex to the point of being overdeveloped.
Indeed, it now has plenty of driver aids, including an electronically controlled four-wheel-drive drivetrain and an advanced suspension system. However, it's still the relentless off-road bruiser we've come to know and love. While other big SUVs have been watered down or morphed into crossovers, the Land Cruiser has steadfastly remained a body-on-frame SUV. Under the hood, the 5.7-liter V8 has proved itself as a stout, but thirsty, power plant and continues to be the only engine available for 2020. Eager to prove itself, a new-for-2020 Heritage Edition landed in our driveway.
Celebrating more than six decades of the Land Cruiser nameplate, the 2020 model year goes on sale in the US with a limited-volume Heritage Edition, which is unique not only in its aesthetic nuances, but also as it is exclusively available in a two-row, five-seater configuration. Other than the unique paint options, bronze forged-aluminum wheels, a standard Yakima MegaWarrior cargo basket, and black and bronze interior trim, the Heritage Edition is fitted with the same basic features as the standard Land Cruiser. No mechanical changes are made for 2020, and the standard variant carries over as is from 2019 with only a few changes made to the exterior paint options list.
See trim levels and configurations:
5.7L V8 Gas
The Land Cruiser moniker is as iconic as its appearance is, with the early fifties-look having modernized from harsh angles and flat surfaces to a smoother, more curvaceous profile that still retains the capable, hardy off-roader DNA. LED projector headlights are standard and feature dark housing on the Heritage Edition, and both models are fitted with LED daytime running lights, foglamps, and stoplights. While the standard Land Cruiser has a chrome grille surround with dark silver inserts, the Heritage Edition has black inserts and darkened chrome accents. Both are fitted with a power moonroof, front and rear frame-mounted tow hooks, and a color-keyed rear spoiler. The standard model ships with a roof rack and the Heritage Edition comes with a Yakima MegaWarrior cargo basket. While 18-inch wheels are stock fitted on both trims, the Heritage variant boasts bronze BBS forged-aluminum alloys.
Standing at 74 inches in height, the Land Cruiser is just under 78 inches wide, and together with a 194.9-inch length, has ideal measurements for its intended purpose of carrying up to eight passengers. The Land Cruiser is carried on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, and its 8.9-inch ground clearance shows off the other side of its nature - to further its off-roading abilities, the Land Cruiser has approach and departure angles of 32 and 24 degrees respectively, with a breakover of 21 degrees. It can also wade up to 27.5 inches when necessary. The Heritage Edition retains the same dimensions but shaves off 100 lbs from the standard trim, weighing in at 5,715 pounds.
A limited palette of five colors is available to the stock Land Cruiser, including Blue Onyx Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, and the extra-cost Blizzard Pearl, which adds $425 to your invoice. For the Heritage Edition, only the last two color options can be had. Any of the shades available suit the Land Cruiser, as the existing spectrum is free from gaudy, gimmicky color schemes; 2019's Brandywine Mica is also limited in availability for the 2020 model year.
Both models feature the same 381-hp powertrain from the 2019 model year, which is a respected V8 power plant that is capable of pushing the Land Cruiser to 60 mph in around 6.7 seconds, according to independent tests. This compares impressively to the performance specs of its corporate cousin, the Lexus LX, that manages the 0 to 60 run in the mid-seven second range. Still, heart-stopping top speeds are not the aim here, and although these competitors share the same engine, which makes 401 lb-ft of torque, the Land Cruiser can tow 8,100 lbs, while the Lexus can only manage 7,000 lbs. The Land Cruiser's focused off-roading capabilities are epitomized in the full-time 4WD setup, and, with a low-range transfer case, multi-terrain select, crawl control, and off-road turn assist, the Cruiser is able to crunch rocks without batting an eye.
Powering the Land Cruiser across the two-model range is a 5.7-liter 32-valve V8 engine that's good for 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Paired to an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, the Land Cruiser's motor strives to get the almost-6,000 pound SUV up to speed quickly; while it manages this adeptly for the most part with smooth shifts, it does tend to upshift quicker than you may like in an effort to use less fuel. Still, there's ample torque from low down in the range, meaning getting up to full throttle isn't a chore, and passing at higher speeds is a breeze.
Where the Land Cruiser shines is off the tarmac - multi-terrain select and low-speed crawl control work superbly in unison with the automatic 'box and V8 to make off-roading a simple affair for the driver. There's sufficient low-down grunt to tackle ruts, rocks and everything in between with the driver just needing to focus on throttle inputs and anticipating braking.
Out on the road, the Land Cruiser's V8 pulls it up to speed with little effort. While the drivetrain isn't sophisticated, there's little fuss from the eight-speed transmission. The result is a smooth drive on the road that lets you forget about just how big and heavy the vehicle is until you hit the freeway and have to step on the brakes.
Although the Land Cruiser was perfectly happy on the road, pulling off and into the California Badlands felt like taking the Land Cruiser into its natural habitat. We had to look for the climbs that the off-road hobbyists were giving up on to get the Land Cruiser's drivetrain to start straining, and even then, the ample torque made short work of everything we could find - despite being on tires more suitable for the road.
It's not just the engine and transmission that makes a heavy vehicle like the Land Cruiser a pleasure to drive on the road. All the weight is moving around as the SUV accelerates, decelerates, and corners. Toyota's kinetic dynamic suspension system keeps everything in check surprisingly well and to the point where the Land Cruiser offers excellent grip on the pavement as well as dirt. Body roll is kept to a minimum and, while you don't forget the heft of the Land Cruiser, it doesn't feel hampered by it. The suspension even makes easy work of high-frequency lumps and bumps at speed, and makes for a smooth ride on the road. The steering is weighted and a little on the heavy side, which helps remind you what you're driving without hampering you in tight areas.
It's not until you pump the breaks where you are truly reminded of the weight. The brakes aren't weak, but there is 5,715 pounds of weight to be wielded around, so they do require a firmer foot than a similarly sized crossover.
Off-road is where everything comes together, including the permanent four-wheel-drive and low-range transfer case. We were eager to put the Land Cruiser 4x4 through its paces, and it absolutely shone in the dusty Badlands. Short approach and departure angles take the anxiety out of starting and finishing steep inclines and declines, while the length of the Land Cruiser isn't too big of a detriment to the breakover angle.
While a shorter wheelbase would help for rock crawling, we would have to go deliberately hunting for trails that could genuinely challenge the Land Cruiser. The Heritage Edition dispenses with the running boards, though, and frees the Land Cruiser to be the best it can off the road without adding aftermarket tires. The one criticism that can be leveled when off-roading with the Land Cruiser is that finding the correct electronic settings for the drivetrain aren't always intuitive.
As is expected of a high-displacement V8, fuel economy is not it's forte. EPA estimates for the Land Cruiser are 13/17/14 mpg for city/highway/combined cycles, which, although pretty dismal, is mostly in line with rivals like the Lexus LX (12/16/14 mpg). The Land Cruiser's stablemate, the Toyota Sequoia, earns similar gas mileage figures, with only one mpg more for combined estimates in 2WD setup, although featuring a less powerful V6 mill.
There's no denying the thirst for fuel the Land Cruiser's V8 has both on and off the road. While we got close to the EPA estimates for combined driving on the road, an afternoon exploring in the hills got us down to eight mpg. That means the big 24.6-gallon fuel tank is a necessary one.
The interior of the Land Cruiser is a well-balanced mix between comfortable and functional, with four-zone automatic climate control, an advanced Premium Audio system with navigation, dynamic cruise control, and leather-trimmed seats amongst the noteworthy features. While the standard model comes with seating for up to eight passengers in semi-aniline perforated leather, the Heritage Edition features two rows only, with seating for five. In both models, the first two rows provide lots of space and can easily seat occupants up to six-feet tall, and, thoughtfully, feature abrasion-resistant seatback material. The third row in the standard trim is much more cramped, and won't keep adult passengers happy at all. Similarly, ingress and egress is no problem for the driver and second-row tag-alongs - with wide opening doors and grab handles - but the third row requires a bit of contortionism to get into. While visibility is good, due to ergonomic design and airy, large windows, the bulk of the vehicle can make it hard to judge where extremities are. With so many features as standard (including heated and ventilated seats, a nine-inch infotainment screen, and 14-speaker JBL sound system), the cabin is a pleasant place to be, although not quite as luxurious as that of the Lexus LX.
The inside is functional, but not without comfort. While the Land Cruiser isn't pushing into Lexus territory, the luxury element is there with big, comfortable leather-trimmed seats featuring multi-stage heating and cooling, four-zone climate control, and smaller details like wireless phone charging. The ten-way power adjustment for the driver's seat means even people over six-foot-tall are able to get a perfect driving position. Forward visibility is excellent, and while the surround-cameras are useful, visibility through the back of the Heritage Edition is improved with the removal of the third row of seating.
Space is not an issue inside the Land Cruiser, and the legroom is the same 34.4 inches in the second row, whether the model has a third row or not. Not having a third row in the Heritage Edition (the standard model's third-row is awkwardly packaged and tricky to access) also frees up cargo capacity in the trunk by 12.1 cubic feet, increasing storage space from 41.4 to 53.5 cubic feet.
Functional is the keyword inside the Land Cruiser, and there's quality plastic in there to go with the leather and imitation wood-grain trimmings, as well as the extra accouterments of the Heritage edition. A black interior is what most people will choose, although Terra brown is available as a color for the standard Land Cruiser.
What detracts from the feeling of luxury is the hard plastic featured heavily in the center console. It fits the Land Cruiser's utilitarian nature, but jars against the excellent materials surrounding it.
Cargo space in the Land Cruiser is impressive. Behind the second row, 41.4 cubic feet is available to store your weekend luggage, expanding to 82.8 cubes with those seats folded flat. The standard cargo capacity tops out at 53.5 cubes in the Heritage Edition, since it lacks a third row of seats.In the eight-seater configuration, there's only 16.1 cubes available. The third row provides the additional challenge that stowing the seats for added cargo volume is both laborious and inconvenient, as the seats don't fold flat - instead, they are flipped and tethered to the sidewalls, leaving a narrow, oddly-shaped bay for loading. While the seats can be removed, this is no quick-and-easy task, so doing this on the fly will be exhausting. Regardless, the total cargo volume is similar to that offered by the Lexus LX.
Small items are catered for in-cabin by means of a large glovebox, a deep, cooled cubby under the front center armrest, a tray in the armrest lid, seatback pockets, and slender door pockets. There's also enough cupholders to go around (ten on the five-seater, and twelve for the eight-passenger setup). A useful overhead storage compartment can also hold your sunglasses.
One of the Land Cruiser's strong points is the comprehensive features list, taking care of safety and conveniences across both models. This includes standard four-zone climate control, power accessories for door locks and windows, LED accent lighting, SmartKey with keyless entry and push-button start, and perforated leather seats that are heated and ventilated in front. The driver gets ten-way power adjustment with a three-position memory function and lumbar support, and both the steering wheel and shifter are leather-wrapped, too. A Qi-compatible charging pad is standard for wireless charging of your smartphone, while an optional rear-seat entertainment system is available. An enhanced multi-terrain monitor is standard, as is a surround-view camera, dynamic radar cruise control, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, hill start assist, and a rearview camera. The Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) pre-collision system is stock fitted, and comprises pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, and automatic high beams, while the Star Safety system provides stability and traction control, brake assist, and smart stop technology.
Whether we're talking about the standard Land Cruiser or the Heritage Edition, it comes loaded and full of features. A 14-speaker Premium JBL audio system takes care of the sound, and the input comes from a nine-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, as well as the option for satellite and high definition radio. There's no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration, though, which should be standard in a vehicle boasting wireless phone charging - as should be more than one USB port. Integrated navigation and the Entune App Suite is included, though. However, the screen isn't the greatest in resolution and it's not the most responsive of units.
While it is still early days for the 2020 model year - which is, so far, recall-free - 2019 models were subject to two recalls: the first relating to non-permanent text on the load capacity label, and the second pertaining to seatbelt sensor wear over time, potentially deactivating the front passenger airbags. There are also very few consumer complaints, and with Toyota's legacy for reliability and dependability, the Land Cruiser should be a worthy long-term investment. To add to your peace of mind, Toyota provides three years and 36,000 miles of cover for all new vehicles, as well as a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Additionally, the Land Cruiser includes a complimentary maintenance and roadside assistance plan for two years or 25,000 miles.
Neither the NHTSA nor IIHS has reviewed the Toyota Land Cruiser for safety, which isn't uncommon in this segment. Despite this lack of an official rating, the extensive list of safety features included as standard should set your mind at ease, however.
Ten airbags, active headrests, LATCH child seat anchors, and pre-tensioning seatbelts make up the passive safety features list. Active safety features include the TSS-P suite, comprised of a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control, and lane departure alert. Traction and stability control, brake assist and smart stop technology are also all standard, and every Land Cruiser ships with blind-spot monitoring, hill start assist, a surround-view monitor, and a rearview camera as standard.
The answer here is a resounding yes. There are 4x4 SUVs for bouncing curbs at the mall, but the Toyota Land Cruiser SUV dominates when you add practicality to the ride comfort and epic off-roading ability. The reputation for bulletproof reliability tips the Land Cruiser into one of the best all-round tools on the market, and that's before we take it's 8,100 lbs towing capacity into account. The only real downsides are the lack of fuel economy in the big picture and the not-fully-fleshed-out infotainment system in the smaller picture.
The two-model 2020 lineup has a starting MSRP of $85,415 for the standard Land Cruiser, while the Heritage Edition with its bespoke styling will set you back $87,745. Both quoted Toyota Land Cruiser prices exclude the destination fee of $1,325, tax, licensing, and registration.
For 2020, two models comprise the Land Cruiser range, with the standard Land Cruiser serving as the base model, and the limited Heritage Edition rounding out the lineup. Both are fitted with the same 5.7-liter V8 engine and configured with full-time 4WD, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The standard Land Cruiser features full LED exterior lighting with daytime running lights and fog lamps, as well as a power liftgate and moonroof. 18-inch split-spoke alloy wheels fill the arches, while a roof rack is fitted as standard. Aluminum running boards and heavy-duty mudguards are stock fitted, too. Inside, four-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and ambient lighting set the mood, while seating for eight is provided on semi-aniline perforated leather. Although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still not supported, an otherwise-excellent infotainment system is in place, featuring a nine-inch split-screen display with integrated navigation, AM/FM radio, CD Player, Bluetooth, and SiriusXM. Sound is channeled through a premium 14-speaker JBL sound system with a subwoofer and amplifier included.
Celebrating more than 60 years of Land Cruiser culture, the Heritage Edition is launched in limited numbers for 2020. With all the same features as the standard model, the Heritage Edition deletes the third row of seats in favor of only two, and limits the color palette to Midnight Black or Blizzard Pearl, and pairs it to bronze BBS forged-aluminum 18-inch wheels. The exterior gets a few dark-toned accents around the grille and headlight housings, and the roof rails are swapped out for a MegaWarrior cargo basket. The interior gets unique black upholstery with bronze contrast stitching.
With such a well-specified standard model, there aren't any available packages, save for the optional Rear Seat Entertainment System available to the base model only. For $2,220, this equips two individual 11.6-inch display screens with HDMI input, remote control, and two sets of wireless headphones.
Standalone options include such amenities like all-weather floor liners ($218), a Glass Breakage Sensor ($299), and a paint-protecting front bumper film for $485.
The standard Land Cruiser is an exceptional piece of kit, but the Heritage Edition does ask questions about the third row by not having one. To us, it says that Toyota should offer the third row as an option, as well as the BBS wheels. If you don't need a third row or the option for screens in the back, and like the cut of the Heritage Edition, we say go ahead. It's a lot of fun and looks great, but the standard Land Cruiser will also get the job done.
From the same stable, the Toyota Sequoia is the smaller sibling of the Land Cruiser. With a starting price around $35k less than the Land Cruiser, it seems almost an illogical comparison. But, featuring the same superior safety suite and 5.7-liter V8 engine - and offering the same peak outputs - the Sequoia is worth a look if you are interested in an SUV that can seat up to eight passengers. The Sequoia offers a little more in the way of cargo space, however, and a smidgeon better gas mileage on combined cycles when equipped as a 2WD - but, with its longer wheelbase and truck-based underpinnings, it's just not as focused an off-roader as the Land Cruiser is. The Sequoia has standard rear-wheel drive and tows around 700 lbs less than the Land Cruiser, and although it offers a full-inch more in terms of ground clearance, doesn't have the impressive approach and departure angles, or Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control, that makes the Land Cruiser the impressive off-roader that it is. Depending on your budget and needs, either of these two vehicles will do their jobs with confidence and excellence - you can't go wrong.
Another excellent offering from Toyota, the 4Runner is once again much smaller than the Land Cruiser, representing the midsize SUV segment against its larger sibling. The 4Runner comes with a reputation for off-roading prowess, and while it is by far not as luxurious or capacious as the Land Cruiser (seating a maximum of seven as opposed to eight), it is a force to be reckoned with on rougher terrain. Featuring a 4.0-liter V6 with outputs of 270 hp and 278 lb-ft, the 4Runner does well in the segment for its 5,000 lbs towing capacity, beating out rivals like the Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe. It's obviously no match for the brute that is the Land Cruiser when it comes toe-to-toe for strength and power, but with a locking differential and dual-range transfer case, the 4Runner takes the lead in its own class for sheer off-road capability. So, while these two are really on opposite ends of the spectrum, the 4Runner is a worthy consideration if you're simply looking for a reliable off-roader. The Land Cruiser puts more emphasis on luxury, and will set you back almost $50k over and above the 4Runners MSRP for this privilege.
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